The NJ Department of Education has just released its draft Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan and is accepting public comments. Even, having participated in the development of the plan, it will take me a few days to read and digest its 366 pages! I encourage you to access the plan and give feedback. Read it here. entire proposed state plan
Along with our partners PEOC, we have spent many hours over the past 6 months advocating for School Climate and Safety to be included in the State Accountability Measures. To this end, members from the Dignity in Schools Campaign (a coalition of over 100 organizations from 26 states dedicated to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline) and NAACP Legal Defense Fund, submitted letters regarding implementation to superintendents around the country. Since our collective organizations were actively involved in the crafting of ESSA and are deeply familiar with the law, we offered several recommendations.
The first and strongest recommendation is that states and districts meaningfully engage parents, families, and other community stakeholders in the ESSA planning and implementation process. This has often not been the reality for parents and stakeholders, especially when representing students from low-income backgrounds, students of color and students with disabilities. We are pleased that NJ did more outreach in this process to date than we’ve seen on any other subject matter. That said, we will continue to press for multiple opportunities for parents to provide input and feedback on the state’s plan and transparency in the decision-making process and in reporting to respective communities.
Some other recommendations to NJ were:
- Include “school climate and safety” as an indicator of school quality. School disciplinary practices can largely impact a student’s success and research has shown that a positive school climate will increase several aspects of student success such as attendance, achievement and graduation rates.
- Include Positive School Climates as a Support and Improvement Strategy and Target ESSA Funds to Address School Climate Issues. This would include encouraging districts to include strategies to reduce exclusionary discipline practices (such as suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrests) and inequality in discipline across race, gender and disability.
- Use ESSA funding to assist districts with improving conditions for student learning by providing meaningful supports, such as ongoing monitoring and technical assistance regarding the effective implementation of restorative practices, PBSIS, and school-based mental health services.
- Ensure Accountability for the Success of Each Subgroup of Students, including economically disadvantaged, major racial and ethnic groups, students with disabilities, English language learners and Students Who Self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ)
- Ensure Students Involved in the Juvenile Justice System Receive Quality Instruction and Transition Back into the Educational System.
We hope that you will take the time to read the draft plan (or the portions that interest you) and submit feedback. Please let me know if you would like more details.